Taxes, salaries and benefits must be on the agenda

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Erika RosenbergDespite the scale of the state’s financial problems, Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo and the wizards in the Department of Budget could probably find ways to paper over them for a few years and hope an eventual rebound in revenues will eliminate the need to inflict any real pain.

But to be considered truly successful, Cuomo should embrace the challenge of putting the state, local governments and schools on a path toward a long-term stable financial future. Read more »

Multitasking, Washington Style

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerWhen I was a child, my grandparents hosted a gift orgy on Christmas Eve—the whole family gathered in Chicago and every aunt & uncle brought something for ME. My cousins and I had eyes only for the pile of gifts under the tree.

Remind you of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)? The ARRA orgy begins with the reasonable assumption that the economy needs a healthy dose of Christmas cheer. Congress and the Administration joyfully decreed that we could save the world and spend money, too. Every lobby and interest group joined in the happy chorus. Presto! Christmas in February.

Yet “killing two birds with one stone” only works if you’re a very good shot. ARRA is riddled with Congressional multitasking, using the occasion of the stimulus (and its virtually unlimited spending) to implement specific social goals.

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Something’s Gotta Give: New York in Crisis

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerI’ve been in a funk since the 2009-10 state budget passed. The state’s elected leaders entered the budget negotiations confronting a potential $20 billion deficit, up from the $14 billion estimated when the Governor released his original budget proposal. That is, the state would have run a $20 billion deficit in 2009-10 if spending and revenue continued without changing anything structural (like tax rates or spending formulae). The faltering economy could no longer satisfy the state’s addiction to ever-greater spending.

Given such a dire forecast, we all wondered how the state would manage to find the money to avoid a major reduction in spending. Imagine our surprise when the Legislature and Governor pulled a rabbit out of the budgetary hat and increased budgeted spending by $12 billion, nearly 9% more than in 2008-09.

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In the future, Rochester NY is a community where “we’re on our own”

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester City Newspaper.

Kent GardnerThe Rochester community confronts problems that will test the mettle of our leaders in coming decades. Our core challenges persist and others will emerge, yet help from external sources will become scarce. We are thrust back on our own devices, thus on the ability of our leaders to forge community solutions to community problems.

The City of Rochester will continue to struggle with its central economic problem: too many school dropouts and too many graduates who are ill-prepared for further schooling or a career. There is no challenge more difficult or more important.

  • Students who leave school without the tools to earn a living for themselves and their families face a lifetime of struggle.
  • The economy trades a contributor for a dependent.
  • The city’s economic vitality will be limited by an ill-trained workforce and a crime rate that is fueled by desperation, resentment, and disillusionment.

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The Stimulus: Too much and not enough

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerAfter I made some cautionary comments on the pending fiscal stimulus plan on a local television news program, a friend said that I “sounded like a Republican.” I never did find out whether this was intended as a compliment or a criticism. Regardless of her intent, I found her comment troubling. Should caution have a partisan label?

I despair that elected officials seem to remember only half of a course in economics. We get more-or-less balanced policy in normal times because they remember different halves. Republicans remember 18th Century political philosopher Adam Smith proclamation that competition can harness initiative and build a stronger economy—yet forget Smith’s injunctions against concentrations of economic power. In this crisis, Democrats remember 20th Century economist John Maynard Keynes’ observation that public spending can stimulate the economy—yet forget that what we spend our money on and the amount of debt we incur matters rather a lot.

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